Many of us approach Trinity Sunday with some nervousness. The Trinity is one of those complicated doctrines of our church which we accept and believe and which we regularly affirm – every week in either the Apostle’s or Nicene Creed. But, one which may give us a headache if we try to think about it to much. It is complicated and it is hard to make sense of. The Trinity is the best example of church math: 1+1+1 = 1. And while we talk about God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit and we might understand in part how they function as Father, Son and Holy Spirit, ultimately we all have to admit that the Trinity is beyond all of our complete understanding. If anyone claims to completely understand the Trinity – be suspicious and don’t believe them.
So how do we get a handle on this important doctrine of the church. St. Augustine wrote this about the Trinity: “The Father is God; The Son is God; The Holy Spirit is God; The Father is not the Son; The Son is not the Holy Spirit; The Holy Spirit is not the Father; There is only one God.”1.
Some have come up with alternative adjectives for Father, Son and Holy Spirit: “Creator, Redeemer, Sustainer” or “Sovereign, Savior, Sustainer.” Sometimes in order to try to understand the Trinity theologians and pastors will come up with various images. For example, one popular image is the water image: liquid, steam and ice are all water; or the family image: I am my children’s father, I am my parent’s son, I am my wife’s husband – but I am all one person. One of my favorite images came from a book I read by Robert Farrar Capon. He describes the Trinity in terms of a game. He begins by warning that he doesn’t mean that God plays the first half of the game, the Son plays the 3rd quarter then the Church gets sent in for the 4th quarter with the Holy Spirit coming out to kick field goals occasionally. While this might be a popular image he rejects this and instead suggests thinking of the Trinity like a team where all of them are playing all the time - since the dawn of creation through all eternity.2
Now, none of these images really work completely. They are all flawed. If one of them is helpful to you – fine, but don’t try to push it too far because it won’t completely work. If one of these images doesn’t work for you at all – fine, discard it. Having said that I should say that I have always been drawn to the Capon game image, and the reason is because of the relational aspect of it. This is because I believe that whatever the Trinity is, it is relationship. It is a relationship within God that enables God to be in relationship with us.
Understanding the Trinity as relationship then leads me to share another image that I think is very beautiful – and that is that perhaps we should think of the Trinity as a dance. The love of God, the love that IS God is like a divine Dance, a dynamic and graceful and deeply intimate movement. In this movement, the God who is "I AM" is not alone, never alone, for the very essence of God is relationship. ... What we see in the Trinity is a dance of Persons who are mutually affirming, mutually caring. For the very essence of God is relationship, community, unconditional love.
It is even more remarkable then that God, who in this Dance needs no other, did choose to create and redeem a people--no, even more, chose to create and redeem you, me, each and every individual we encounter--so that we might join in this Dance. The invitations have been sent. There are to be no mere spectators on the dance floor. No outcasts, no outsiders. We are called by God to see ourselves as God sees each of us and thus discover ourselves to be, like the Persons of the Trinity, truly beloved.3
So... Come and join the dance. There are no wallflowers in the the Triune God's dance of Love. There is no one who has to worry about being clumsy or alone or unacceptable. This "Dancing with the Stars (literally)" has no judges who will eliminate you - rather God - Father, Son and Holy Spirit is always dancing and always beaconing to us to: Come and join the dance! We also need to be reminded that it is not the Triune God who rejects us - usually it is we ourselves who reject ourselves and way too often it is we ourselves who reject others for a whole variety of reasons. We easily see ourselves and others as flawed and have a much harder time accepting that we are beloved! What would happen if we looked at all those around us (and at ourselves) with fresh eyes, seeing not rivals or annoyances or, perhaps worst of all, as invisibles... but rather as God's Beloved ones, as God's Dance partners? ... On this Trinity Sunday, God gives us a priceless gift that we can share with all those we meet, all those whose life's baggage has become so full, so heavy, that they have forgotten who they are and whose they are. We can dare to look them (and ourselves) in the eye and quietly remind them (ourselves) "not only with our lips but in our lives" that they (we) are not God and don't need to be. There is one God, who is relationship, who is Divine Dance, who is Love. And they (we) are God's Beloved.3 So... Come, Let's Dance!
1. Augustine of Hippo - "On Christian Doctrine" (Contact me for an exact citation)
2. Robert Farrar Capon - "On Hunting the Divine Fox"
3. The Rev. Canon C.K. Robertson - Sermon "The Dance" posted at Day1.org